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Albarn, Gilliam back plan to make opera more accessible

From left to right, Chief Executive of the ENO Loretta Tomasi, musician Damon Albarn, artistic directors of the ENO John Berry and Rufus Norris during a press conference for Undress for the Opera, at the Coliseum Theatre, in London, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/John Stillwell, PA)

LONDON: Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam and Blur and Gorillaz singer Damon Albarn are supporting a plan by the English National Opera to entice new and younger audience members with the promise of casual clothes, cheap tickets and cocktails.

Albarn’s operatic show “Dr Dee” was performed at the ENO’s London home earlier this year, and the company says 60 percent of audience members had never attended an opera before.

It hopes to attract more newcomers with its “Undress for the Opera” initiative, which reassures operagoers that it’s okay to dress as they like, even if that means – gasp – jeans.

The company also will make 100 top tickets at certain performances available for 25 pounds ($40), as part of a package that includes an introductory talk, an information guide and a post-show party, complete with themed cocktails. The goal, Gilliam said in a filmed promo, is to dispel the notion that opera is “art for the rich, the successful and the almost dead.”

Albarn, frontman of 1990s Britpop icons Blur and cartoon band Gorillaz, said Wednesday that he hopes perceptions of opera as stuffy and expensive will change.

He said he was reluctant to call his stage works “proper” operas – though he aspired to write one someday. “I’m quite clearly not someone who had any formal opera education,” Albarn said. “I was too busy jumping up and down on stages around the world when I should have been at college completing my classical music education.”

Find out more about the English National Opera on http://www.eno.org/.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 04, 2012, on page 16.

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